I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
PEO best kept secret for 90 years here
By Barry Schrader.................................January
A little-known, low profile womens organization that was founded
nationally in 1869 by seven young women at Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant,
Iowa organized its first East Bay chapter in the Livermore Valley 90 years
ago and is still going strong.
P.E.O. is never spelled out so their full name is never revealed, but
looking back at the Livermore Herald edition of Nov. 25, 1916 a front page
story declared that a P.E.O. chapter was organized in town. Some of the
local founders were Mrs. G.H Todd, the first chapter president, Mrs. Arthur
L. Henry (wife of the Herald publisher), and Mrs. C.C. Waud. (The newspapers
never used married womens first names in stories in those days.)
The goal of the group was then and still is now to promote the education
and advancement of women. This pioneer society is the only womens
organization in the country to operate a nonsectarian college for womenCottey
College in Nevada, Missouri. P.E.O now boasts a membership of a quarter
million members throughout the U.S. and Canada. In California alone there
are 520 chapters.
Todays president of that original chapter, known as BG, is Lin
Tobin of Livermore. She explained that they hold small fundraisers so they
can give a local scholarship in memory of two early members May Nissen and
Mabel Hansen to a graduating high school senior as well as help finance
state and national scholarships. One of their members, Tressie Kirkman,
will soon be observing her 60th anniversary in P.E.O.
The second chapter to form in the Livermore Valley, known as FX, was
actually a transfer of charter from a San Francisco chapter (founded in
1928) that was folding in February 1967. The first president of this group
was Betty Ellison, who is still active. The current president is Ann Bush
Pleasanton was next to organize a sisterhood, known as Chapter WB, in
December 1989 with Barbara Steen elected as president. This years
leader is Jennie Kordes. One of their members Patti Baer is state chair
for the medical scholarships program in California.
A second unit was also formed in Pleasanton, this one in February 2003
when Ann Harper was elected the first president of the XN chapter. Now the
president is Melissa Nicholson.
A fledgling chapter has also begun in Tracy, chartered in March 1998
as Chapter XG. Its first president was Ann Fosco and current leader is Diane
I have always been amazed at how effectively the P.E.O. manages to raise
scholarship monies and perform community service projects as well, avoiding
publicity and staying low key. My mother was in the organization beginning
in the 1950s in Illinois and their small chapter operated the town library
for many years. Each member had to volunteer one afternoon a month in the
library, while the town council funded the purchase of books. She was instrumental
in getting my wife interested in joining a chapter in Livermore. As a sideline
observer of this dedicated group working behind the scenes to help young
women get an education, I continue to be impressed with their efforts.
Like Rotary, they have an auxiliary for spouses. We are called BILs,
spelled out as Brothers-In-Law (or some prefer Brothers In Love). Once or
twice a year the men are included in a social event or family outing.
Where there are two chapters each in Livermore and Pleasanton, one meets
days and other one in the evening each month. The joke among the husbands
is that P.E.O. means Papa Eats Out as the men sometimes have
to fend for themselves on meeting days, as no males are permitted at the
meetings or even in the immediate vicinity!
Talking to Dick Angel about his front yard bomb shelter in Pleasanton,
I thought there has to be some interesting stories about these Cold War
hideouts in the valley dating back to the 1950s. So send an email or drop
me a line if you know of any left out there or have an anecdote to share
about yours and we maybe we make a column out of it.
Well take a break from history mysteries awhile so I can catch
up on my research.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551